By Emily Bialkowski
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Aug. 27 to allow a constitutional amendment to appear on the November ballot that restricts voting.
Houston County Auditor Char Meiners said – strictly from the responsibilities she holds as the chief election administrator – the proposition will create an immediate drain on the election process.
Meiners gave a presentation on the topic to the Houston County Board during their Aug. 28 meeting after receiving several questions about the amendment and how it will affect elections.
She prefaced her presentation by saying it was strictly informational. “I’m not telling you how to vote. My job as chief election administrator is to provide information of what is potentially coming,” she said.
At face value the law requires voters to show photographic identification before voting.
It sounds simple enough, even reasonable, because the state would be required to issue a free ID to those who don’t have one. However, Meiners said there are many legitimate reasons people don’t have a current driver’s license – such as a recent move, recent marriage, the person is elderly and doesn’t drive – and that it’s not a free ID from the state if you’re required to provide a birth certificate or marriage license and have to pay to get copies of those.
Meiners said those attempting to vote without a photo ID will be given a provisional ballot that will be sealed in a separate envelope. Those ballots will sit at the auditor’s office for three to 10 business days, during which time provisional voters may come in with proper identification. “This will delay certified election results,” Meiners said.
She also warned that most people will not be able to provide adequate ID in three to 10 business days as it takes three to four weeks to get a driver’s license, for example.
She also said her office will likely be required to provide extended hours for provisional voters so they can come in and prove they are who they say they are. That will be an additional cost to the county in terms of employee time.
Another expense will be paying for two extra election judges per precinct for the provisional voting area.
“Provisional balloting will be a cumbersome process,” Meiners said, adding that it cost the State of Indiana $10 million dollars to provide free IDs the first year they had a voter ID law.
Her list of concerns continued with absentee voting. Absentee voters will be required to prove who they are just like regular voters. In the last presidential election, Meiners said a tenth of the county voted absentee, many of whom are elderly. She said many of those individuals no longer drive and have transportation issues for getting the free ID. They may also have trouble locating birth certificates and similar documentation, she said.
“Proponents of voter ID claim there is a lot of voter fraud, but in actuality there were fewer than 200 convictions in Minnesota over the last several years – and most of those were felons,” Meiners said, adding, “Minnesota has perhaps the best elections systems in place, and I don’t say that lightly.”
In addition to the 1,000 voters who voted absentee the last presidential election, Meiners said there was another 1,000 who utilized same day voter registration. The amendment, if passed, is likely to eliminate that convenience.
And finally, Meiners said that changing the state’s constitution is no way to address the issue. She said if the program launches and the need for little fixes surface afterward, another constitutional amendment would need to take place for even minor changes.
“I ask that you do your research and make a very informed decision when you vote on it,” Meiners concluded.
Proposed Minnesota Constitutional Amendment
In part reads: All voters voting in person must present valid government-issued photographic identification before receiving a ballot. The state must issue photographic identification at no charge to an eligible voter who does not have a form of identification meeting the requirements of this section. A voter unable to present government-issued photographic identification must be permitted to submit a provisional ballot in the manner provided by law.
All voters, including those not voting in person, must be subject to substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted.